October 9, 2000
Retired Northshore school administrator helps Mexican children
By Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, is a charming seaside resort with cobblestone streets and bougainvillea-shaded patios.
Yet, not far from the chic shops and sunny beach where bikini-clad tourists sip Margaritas is a community of poverty. Living in cardboard and tin shacks north of town, children forage the city dump for food or things they can sell.
This is why Lynda Humphrey, a retired Northshore school administrator, is asking anyone who plans to visit Puerto Vallarta to take two suitcases with them when they go, the limit allowed by the airlines.
Humphrey explained that one suitcase could hold personal effects and the other could be filled with inexpensive clothes for the Mexican children who live at the dump.
"Clothing is a real issue," Humphrey said and added that toys are valued treasures. She explained, "My husband and I took down a suitcase full of stuffed animals."
Her purchases cost as little as 29 cents a piece at the Seattle Goodwill. But to the children she gave them to, they may as well have cost a million bucks for the appreciation felt.
"Mexico is still considered a Third World country," Humphrey said. "With the new government under Vicente Fox voted in this year, people are extremely hopeful Mexico can move forward."
The Mexican people are trapped by an economy and a system that drains their resources. Even so, the people work hard and are gracious.
According to Humphrey, "They would give the shirt off their back."
The Americans, she said, are buying up prime property in Puerto Vallarta, pushing the Mexicans back to affordable land further away.
With the standard wage at $1.10 an hour and with tourism as the main livelihood, the Mexican people dedicate one hour of their salary for the bus trip to and from their jobs. Also, birth control is not widely practiced and a contributing factor to their impoverished condition.
Enter Saul Gonzalez. He is the pastor of Perdon y Amistad, a church in Puerto Vallarta ‹ its name meaning forgiveness and friendship.
Pastor Saul is the driving force behind Feed the Children program, a ministry which undertakes the feeding and clothing of the poor children who live at the dump.
Humphrey became involved with the ministry when she visited a Canadian friend who had emigrated to Puerto Vallarta. Her friend invited her to her church where Pastor Saul ministers.
Humphrey learned that the church had negotiated with Alaska, Aero Mexico and Mexicana airlines. Church volunteers agreed to clean airline trays and sort silverware and dishes. In return, the airlines handed over untouched food left after their flights.
Humphrey offered her assistance at the airport's commissary where volunteers work from 3 to 6 p.m. each day.
A church van is loaded with the salads and salisbury steaks and other airline foods, then heads toward the dump. The children gather at a nearby gazebo, and as the food is passed out, a youth pastor holds a Bible study. In one day, 125 to 150 kids are fed food the airlines considers as waste.
Humphrey mentioned that the Feed the Children program is the same ministry that Joe and Linda Knight were passionately involved in when their lives were tragically taken in the Alaskan Airline crash off the coast of California, Jan. 31, 2000.
She didn't personally know the couple who pastored the Rock Church in Monroe, but she did say, "They touched so many people with their spirit."
Today, the program continues to grow. World Vision donated $80,000 toward the purchase of land.
Currently in the planning stage for construction is a place called the House of Champions. When completed, the building will have running water, showers, toilets and possibly extra space for community gatherings.
The church also offers English classes.
And due to Humphrey's educational background, she was asked to give tips on how to make teaching more effective.
One example of an English lesson involved a trip to the local McDonald's where the children ordered their happy meals in English. With an economy based on tourism, speaking English is a step out of poverty.
"Are we making a dent in their future?" Humphrey wondered, "I think we are. At least they are getting a nutritious meal a day. Hopefully, they're seeing there's a brighter future than living at the dump."
In addition to her work for Feed the Children, Lynda Humphrey will teach a class on Puerto Vallarta, Nov. 9 at Kenmore Junior High, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
She will highlight the tropical beauty and the must-see sites as well as answer questions about travel to Mexico.
"The people are lovely and the weather is grand," Humphrey said. "And," she added, "if you have time, it's a place to make a difference."
For further information on donations to Feed the Children, contact Lynda Humphrey via e-mail at LyndaLarry@aol.com. To register for her class, call (425) 489-6204.